In the Navajo language, Tse’Bii’Ndzisgaii, describes the high desert plateau along the Arizona-Utah border formed from sediments deposited layer by layer over eons of geologic time. For more than 50 million years, erosion, wind and weather have stripped away the softer strata to reveal the awe-inspiring sandstone buttes and mesas rising from the desert floor that give Monument Valley its name.
Standing Guard at Yei Bi Chei
Elmer A. Hubbard in Monument Valley
From 1948 into the mid-1950s, from his shop in Flagstaff, AZ, Hubbard sold, installed and maintained many of the one-cylinder, diesel Woody generators that powered the trading posts long before electricity reached the Navajo Reservation. It was on these road trips that the photography bug bit Hubbard.
Hubbard would load the heavy equipment into his truck and out on narrow dirt roads to the trading posts in the remote communities of Kayenta, Oljato, Inscription House, Ganado, Chinle, and his favorite haunt, Monument Valley; always with his camera always close at hand.
He and Harry Goulding, a pioneer in this region of the country and founder of Gouldings Lodge, became close friends. When the work was done these two kindred spirits enjoyed nothing better than to knock around the Valley and visit with the Navajo sheepherders and artisans they called their friends.
This was back when Goulding had enticed the Hollywood director John Ford to consider Monument Valley as the backdrop for his epic westerns. There were stories of their hiking out away from the lodge with the likes of John Wayne and Victor McLaglen for impromptu target pistol matches. But the star appeal would never outshine Hubbard’s keener interest in the natural splendor of Monument Valley.